Quotes of the day, February 28, 2014: What defines you?

history records no human group whose core essence was eternal indignation.

-John McWhorter, Time, “Spike Lee’s Racism Isn’t Cute: ‘M—f— Hipster’ Is the New ‘Honkey'”, article dated February 28 2014 (last accessed February 28 2014)

Long quote, but worth the reading:

the great sin of our age, the great Vanity, that of Tribalism.

You believe that your membership in a tribe makes you superior to others; I think your devotion to a tribe makes you inferior.

You are desperately searching for affirmation of self in trivial proofs. I believe this, I don’t believe that; ergo, I’m superior.

You might as well be basing your ego upon your favorite ice cream flavor.

. . . Like you, I do not believe anything in the Bible, except for some small things like I’m pretty sure a man named Jesus lived and caused a bit of ruckus.

But to me, this is about as much evidence of my superiority over my fellow man as my interest in True Detective.

You are establishing, in your mind, a hierarchy of persons, from wise to fool, based upon your own idiosyncratic What’s Hot/What’s Not list.

Here is an eye-opener for you: Some people wonder more about the First Mover than you or I do. Some people find scientific explanations implausible or unsatisfying.

This does not make them fools; it makes them of a different personality type than you or I.

. . .

The Vanity of our age is to find more and more trivial proofs that we matter. That we count. That we’re better.

Politics, religion, racial or gender identity, sexual preference… all of it. We stupidly look at the world with eyes full of greed for proof that We Matter. We’re Better. We’re Special.

There is more to the world than that, if you look. Even if you don’t believe in any god.

Some religious people find meaning, and personal validation, in Jesus. Some others seem to find a great deal too much meaning and personal validation in not believing in Jesus.

Let it go. Let vanity go.

I have a theory, which I frankly have not thought about very hard, but my theory is that Vanity is the handmaiden of all other sins.

For no other sin can be undertaken without causing a revulsion in the conscience except that Vanity — or as a modernist would term it, ego, the Almighty I — makes up a complicated and nonsense justification for that sin.

Let it go man. Let it go.

So I guess this makes me an agnostic Deist Buddhist or something.

Who knows. Who cares.

Go with God, or, if you like it better, go without him.

But get over your ego. You’ll move faster and lighter without it.

-Ace, Ace of Spades, “Open Letter to a Fellow Atheist”, post dated February 27 2014 (last accessed February 28 2014)

A lot of people base their relationships on pain: How much can I hurt this person? How do I prove that I matter except by hurting others? How many others can I hurt and still be invited back to hurt them some more?

Yes, “a lot of people” is a dodge. I could name names. I choose not to, because honestly this post isn’t about naming people I don’t agree with, don’t understand, and often don’t feel comfortable around.

There are a surprising number of people who have followed this blog over the years. Surprising because, as the name “C Good’s Things” and the subtitle “Things that interest me” suggest, this blog started out more as a way for me to keep notes to myself about thing I find interesting.

Of all the things that interest me, hurting others is something that doesn’t interest me. Yes, I enjoy martial arts and reading about ways the human body works and doesn’t work, and I enjoy reading about military history, firearms, and weapons.

But the actual hurting of people? Pft. That’s the easiest thing in the world. I truly do not understand people who think it is fun to hurt others, who think it is the height of friendship to regularly put themselves in an altered and less-controlled state of consciousness, deliberately and gleefully say hurtful and humiliating things about someone in front of a group of people, and then gleefully proclaim that is what “real” friendship is all about. 

I don’t think that’s what real friendship is all about, but I do think that is what real tribalism and real selfishness and real vanity is all about.

Behavior like that creates a never-ending cycles of recrimination. You make your friend uncomfortable in front of others, your friend retaliates the next time they see you in front of others, you retaliate to the retaliation. While you’re busy tearing apart each other and anyone else who is unfortunate enough to be a topic of conversation, there are people who look at this and say “I don’t like any of you.”

Doors of opportunity and friendship are closed before you ever knew they existed. The quiet people whose judgment is trusted because they are quiet and only speak when they mean to say “No, do not invite them, I will not be around if you do” and the invitations are withdrawn.

Almost 20 years ago I started training myself to define myself in terms of actions, not labels. There are nice people out there, people who don’t define relationships by pain. I chose to try to be someone like that, and to be someone who will be invited into the lives of other people like that.

The 20 years since then have brought a lot of changes I didn’t expect. A lot of those changes I can trace back to some of those choices I made long ago.

You really are judged by the company you keep. The people you choose to be around must be the type of people you like to be around, and that means you’ll invite them along with you when you go other places — or they’ll invite themselves. But either way, the people you spend time around do a lot to define you in the eyes of others.

The people you spend time around will define you in more ways than you expect. Their attitudes, outlooks on life, interests, and habits of life such as food, money, rest, and intoxicants, you’ll pick all that up from the people you spend time around, and they’ll pick it up from you too. A few years ago there was an article in New Scientist saying scientists were finding effects even at three or four degrees of separation (your friend’s friends’ friends affect you); two years ago I reread one of Dion Fortune’s books about occult societies and she spent multiple chapters on how much the attitude of a group will affect the members of a group; last year I started reading the book of Proverbs in the Old Testament and it was amazing to me how many proverbs were about the people you spend time with (particularly admonitions to avoid the Mocker); although I’ve yet to read the book myself, engineer friends who have read the book Peopleware say it talks about the types of people you can have in a group and how they will help or hinder the group. I list those examples to show that there are multiple people in multiple venues all saying the same thing: who you spend time with matters. And I have found that to be true in my own life.

There are more opportunities than time to follow all of them, so what you spend time on you will get more of, and what you spend time on is your priority, regardless of what you say otherwise. I really can’t say it any more plainly than that.

Destruction and pain are some of the easiest things in the world to achieve. Beauty, strength, and durability: now those are difficult. That is why I post so many articles about things other people make or do. The making or doing is difficult; criticizing is easy, and endlessly understanding the people who like to criticize and destroy and hurt is even easier yet.

Also 20 years ago, I spent a year thinking about what I wanted to be able to say about myself when I died. Whether to God, or just to my own conscience, what did I want to be able to say about my life? And after wrestling with that question for a year, the answer was “I lived it.” Win, lose or draw, whether I get to crow about them or have to eat crow because of them, my decisions are my decisions, my choices are my choices, my life is my life. I live it and nobody else does. It’s a full life: I have a body, a mind, a heart and a soul, and I try to give time to all four of those aspects (incidentally, that’s one of the reasons I cook so much: another unexpected lesson was how much each of the four affects all the others, and good food shared with good friends can make a lot of other things in life much more bearable and much more meaningful).

Above all, that is what I have the hardest time understanding about other people. Fully half the men and three-quarters of the women I have met (and continue to meet) seem to think it is the highest compliment and the highest mark of caring to try and take over someone else’s life. And to me, that is just another type of destruction. Instead of making me into a copy of you, only better, why not let me be me?

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